Canada is the second largest and the northern-most country in the world, occupying most of the North American land mass. It is a decentralized federation of ten provinces and three territories, governed as a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. It was initially constituted through the British North America Act of 1867 and styled The Dominion of Canada.
Canada's capital is Ottawa, home of the nation's Parliament, as well as the residences of the Governor General of Canada (who exercises the personal prerogatives delegated by Queen Elizabeth II, Canada's formal head of state) and the Prime Minister (the head of government).
Originally a union of former French and British colonies, Canada is a Commonwealth Realm, and a member of both La Francophonie and the Commonwealth of Nations. Canada is officially bilingual, with French widely spoken in the eastern provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick, in Eastern Ontario and in specific communities throughout the West. English is the majority language elsewhere. Parliament mainly comprises members of four main political parties.
Canada is a technologically advanced and industrialized nation, largely self-sufficient in energy due to its relatively large deposits of fossil fuels, nuclear energy generation, and hydroelectric power capabilities. Its economy has traditionally relied heavily on the abundance of natural resources and trade, particularly with the United States, with which it has a long, extensive relationship. Although the modern Canadian economy has become widely diversified, exploitation of natural resources remains an important driving force of many regional economies.
|National motto: A Mari Usque Ad Mare |
(Latin: From Sea to Sea)
|Official languages ||English & French, federally |
|Capital ||Ottawa |
|Largest City ||Toronto |
|Political system ||Constitutional Monarchy |
|Monarch ||Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II |
|Governor General ||Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson |
|Prime Minister ||Right Honourable Paul Martin (Lib.) |
- % water
|Ranked 2nd |
- Total (Oct 2004 est.)
|Ranked 35th |
- BNA Act
- Statute of Westminster 19311
- Constitution Act, 1867 and Constitution Act, 1982 or Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
|From the UK: |
July 1, 1867
December 11, 1931
April 17, 1982
|GDP (2004) |
- Total (PPP)
- GDP/head (PPP)
$1.056 trillion (11th)
$0.834 trillion (9th)
|Currency ||Canadian dollar ($) |
|Time zone ||UTC −3.5 to −8 |
|National anthem ||O Canada |
|Royal anthem ||God Save the Queen |
|Internet TLD ||.ca |
|Calling code ||1 |
Main article: Canada's name
The name "Canada" is believed to have originated from a Huron-Iroquoian word, Kanata meaning "village" or "settlement" or "collection of huts"  (http://www.canadianheritage.gc.ca/progs/cpsc-ccsp/sc-cs/o5_e.cfm), referring to Stadacona, a settlement on the site of present-day Quebec City. Maps made by early European explorers show that the name River Canada was given to the Ottawa River, and the Saint Lawrence River below Montreal. A plausible hypothesis is that the river was named for the village on its banks, and the surrounding country for the river used to explore it.
Main articles: History of Canada, Timeline of Canadian history
Canada, which has been inhabited by aboriginal peoples, known in Canada as the First Nations, for at least 10,000 years, was first visited by Europeans around 1000, when the Vikings briefly settled at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. More permanent European visits came in the 16th and 17th century, as the French settled there.
At the end of the Seven Years' War by the Treaty of Paris (1763), France surrendered her huge North American empire. She kept only some Caribbean islands, and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon as bases for her Atlantic fishing rights. Her other domains – Acadia to the Appalachians, all French Canada west beyond that, plus the Ohio and Illinois country and all the lands east of the Mississippi – passed into British possession; while Spain was given France's Louisiana territories west of the Mississippi. New France had disappeared.
After the American Revolution, many British Loyalists settled in Canada.
On July 1, 1867, with the passing of the British North America Act, the British government granted a Constitution to a federation of four provinces formed from three of its North American colonies, Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The former Province (colony) of Canada formed two provinces of the new Dominion of Canada, being partitioned into Quebec and Ontario along the old boundary between Lower and Upper Canada. The term Confederation refers to this act of union and is often used for the resulting federation.
Other British colonies and territories soon joined Confederation: by 1880 Canada included all of its present area except for Newfoundland and Labrador (which joined in 1949). Full control over the Dominion's affairs officially came in 1931 with the Statute of Westminster, and in 1982 with the patriation of Canada's constitution.
As tensions between English and French Canadians prevented agreement on the new capital, Queen Victoria chose the centrally-located Ottawa. This compromise was similar to one that resulted in the creation of Washington as the US capitol to appease Northerners and Southerners.
In the second half of the 20th century, some citizens of the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec sought independence in two referendums held in 1980 and 1995. In both referendums, the separatist cause, led by the Parti Québécois, was defeated with 60% and 50.6% opposed to independence, respectively. Although the separatist movement has waned in recent years, many consider another referendum to be inevitable.
Main article: Geography of Canada
Canada occupies the northern half of North America. It is bordered to the south by the contiguous United States, separated by the International Boundary, and to the northwest by Alaska. The country stretches from the Atlantic Ocean and Davis Strait in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west; hence the country's motto. To the north lie the Beaufort Sea and Arctic Ocean. Since 1925, Canada has claimed the portion of the Arctic between 60 degrees west longitude and 141 degrees west longitude ( (http://atlas.gc.ca/site/english/maps/historical/territorialevolution/1927/1)); that is, Canada's territorial claim extends to the North Pole.
Canada is the world's second-largest country in total area, after Russia. However, it has an extremely low population density of 3.2 people per square kilometre. Eighty percent of Canadians live within 200 km of the United States along the International Boundary, where the country's most temperate climates are located. While Canada covers a larger geographic area than its neighbour, it has only one-ninth of the population. Canada's vast and rich territory has led to a historical economic dependence on its natural resources.
The most densely-populated part of the country is the Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence River Valley in the east. To the north of this region is the broad Canadian Shield, an area of rock scoured clean by the last ice age, thinly soiled, rich in minerals, and gouged with lakes and rivers— over 60 percent of the world's lakes are located in Canada. The Canadian Shield encircles the immense Hudson Bay.
The Canadian Shield extends to the Atlantic Coast in Labrador, the mainland part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The island of Newfoundland, Canada's easternmost region, is at the mouth of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the world's largest estuary. The Canadian Maritimes, the first region to be settled by Europeans, protrude eastward from the southern coast of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, sandwiched between the Gulf to the north and the Atlantic to the south. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are divided by the Bay of Fundy, an arm of the Atlantic that experiences the world's largest tidal variations.
To the west of Ontario, the broad, flat Canadian Prairies spread towards the Rocky Mountains, which divide the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. Southern British Columbia enjoys a very temperate climate with much milder winters than the rest of the country.
Northern Canadian vegetation tapers from coniferous forests to tundra and finally to Arctic barrens in the far north. The northern Canadian mainland is ringed with a vast archipelago containing some of the largest islands on Earth.
Canada has a reputation for cold temperatures. Indeed, the winters can be harsh in many regions of the country, with risks of blizzards and ice storms and temperatures reaching lows of -50°C in the far North. (Southwestern British Columbia is a well-known exception.) In the most densely populated regions, summers range from mild to quite hot, attaining highs of well over 30°C in Montreal and 15°C even in Iqaluit, Nunavut. In Vancouver, temperatures usually remain stable at around 5-25°C year round, whereas in Calgary they can drop to -30°C in the winter and attain a high of 30°C in the summer. In the great lakes region, the most heavily populated area in the country, temperatures can range from -30°C to 35°C. The country experiences four distinct seasons.
Main article: Politics of Canada
Canada is a federation under a system of parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. Its sovereign is the monarch Queen Elizabeth II (who is Canada's Head of State) with the title of Queen of Canada. The Head of State prerogatives are exercised by the Governor General who is generally a retired politician or other prominent Canadian appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister of Canada. The Governor General is a non-partisan figure who fills the role of providing Royal Assent to bills passed by the House of Commons and the Senate, reading the Speech from the Throne, signing state documents, formally opening and ending sessions of Parliament, and dissolving Parliament for an election. Both the Queen and the Governor General are primarily figureheads, with little real power as they almost always act on the advice of Canada's Head of Government, the Prime Minister, who is also the government party leader who controls such tools of governance as party discipline and patronage appointments.
Canada's constitution (see this page for text (http://lois.justice.gc.ca/en/const/index.html)) governs the legal framework of the country, but has to be interpreted in light of various unwritten traditions and conventions (see Westminster system). The Constitution Act, which contains procedures for amending the Constitution, was agreed to during an agreement one night referred to as the "Kitchen Accord" (known also to Quebec nationalists as "Nuit des longs couteaux": night of long knives — 1982) without the consent of the province of Quebec.
The Governor General formally appoints the Prime Minister who is usually the leader of the political party that holds the most seats in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister in turn appoints the Cabinet drawn by convention from members of the Prime Minister's party in the House of Commons and the Senate. Executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and Cabinet, all of whose members are sworn into the Privy Council of Canada and become Ministers of the Crown.
The legislative branch of government, the Parliament, has two houses: the elected House of Commons and the appointed Senate (see individual articles for details). The Prime Minister recommends the Governor General calls elections for the House of Commons at his or her discretion, though they must occur no later than five years after the previous one. The federal parliament may only legislate in those areas assigned to it by the constitution.
Canada has three main national parties, the centrist Liberal Party of Canada, right-wing Conservative Party of Canada, and the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP). A regional party, the Bloc Québécois, holds many seats in Quebec; its agenda is separatist and primarily social-democratic. Smaller parties exist, but rarely have been able to elect members to the House of Commons. Independent candidates are rarely elected (Chuck Cadman was an exception in 2004). Canada has strict party discipline which gives the Prime Minister very high levels of control over almost all legislation passed by Parliament.
The Liberal Party has been the government of Canada for 32 of the last 42 years, and is the party of the current Prime Minister Paul Martin and his predecessor Jean Chrétien. The only other party ever to have formed a government is the now-defunct Progressive Conservative Party, which in December 2003 merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada.
Canada's judiciary plays an important role in interpreting federal, provincial and municipal laws and regulations, and has the power to amend and strike down laws. All judges at the superior, appellate and Supreme Court of Canada levels are selected and appointed by the federal government, after consultation with various non-governmental legal bodies. Judicial posts at the lowest levels with jurisdiction limited to one province are filled by each provincial or territorial government. The Supreme Court of Canada is the final arbiter. (see Court system of Canada for more detail).
Canada is a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, La Francophonie, NATO, the G8, and APEC.
Provincial and territorial government
Main article: Provinces and territories of Canada
Canada is divided into ten provinces and three territories. The provinces have a large degree of autonomy from the federal government, while the territories have somewhat less. Each has its own provincial or territorial symbol.
The provinces are responsible for most of Canada's social programs (such as healthcare, education, and welfare) and together collect more revenue than the federal government, an almost unique structure among federations in the world. The federal government can initiate national policies that the provinces can opt out of, but this rarely happens in practice. Transfer payments are made to ensure that reasonably uniform standards of services and taxation are kept between the richer and poorer provinces. Most provincial income taxes are also collected by the federal government and transferred to the provinces for simplicity.
Criminal law is solely the responsibility of the federal government, and crime and punishment is uniform throughout Canada. Though enforcement is a provincial responsibility, most of the provinces contract these services out to the RCMP. The RCMP is the only police force in the world that enforces three different levels of enforcement: municipal, provincial, and federal.
The ten provinces have unicameral, elected legislatures with governments headed by a premier who is chosen in the same fashion as the federal prime minister. Every province also has a figurehead lieutenant governor representing the Queen, appointed by the Prime Minister of Canada.
Most provinces' political climates include provincial counterparts to the three national federal parties. However, provincial parties are not normally formally linked to the federal parties, with the exception of the NDP. Some provinces have regional political parties, such as the Saskatchewan Party or the Labrador Party.
The provincial political climate of Quebec is quite different, with the main split being between separatism, represented by the Parti Québécois, and federalism, represented by the Parti Libéral du Québec. As interest in the sovereignty debate diminishes, however, the relevance of this party division is coming into question. Two smaller parties, the right-wing Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) and the left-wing Union des Forces Progressistes (UFP), are trying to break into the two-party system and do not focus primarily on the sovereignty question. However, of the two, only the ADQ has yet elected members to the National Assembly (Quebec's legislature).
The three territories have fewer political powers than provinces, having been created by acts of the national Parliament rather than having their status enshrined in the Constitution. There is no lieutenant governor to represent and fulfill the functions of the Queen of Canada. A politically-neutral commissioner is appointed by the federal government to act as the "Government of Canada's senior representative", [Commissioner of the Yukon Territory (http://www.gov.yk.ca/commissioner/message.html)]. Only the legislature of the Yukon territory follows the same political system as the provincial legislatures. The other two territories use a consensus government system with no parties, in which each member runs as an independent, and the premier is elected by and from the members.
Relations between the federal government and the territorial governments have been tense. Many of the disputes between the two governments have been between the usage of resources and funding. Even though the territories have the highest per capita incomes in Canada, the poverty rate in the territories has been constantly large owing to isolation, the extreme difficulty and cost of supplying goods, the scarcity of jobs, and social problems.
Due to the reduced political powers, many people say that the Canadian territories have not received proper and equal representation in the Canadian Parliament. Prime Minister Martin has said that he believes the territories will eventually become provinces, although this would probably require delicate constitutional negotiations for which no timeframe has been considered.  (http://www.cbc.ca/cp/world/041122/w112288.html)
A grain elevator outside London, Ontario
Main article: Economy of Canada
As an affluent, high-tech industrial society, Canada today closely resembles the United States in its market-oriented economic system, pattern of production, and high living standards. Since World War II, the impressive growth of the manufacturing, mining, and service sectors has transformed the nation from a largely rural economy into one primarily industrial and urban. Energy self-sufficient, Canada has vast deposits of natural gas on the east coast and in the three western provinces, and a plethora of other natural resources. The 1989 Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (which included Mexico) touched off a dramatic increase in trade and economic integration with the US. As a result of the close cross-border relationship, the economic downturn in the United States in 2001 had a negative impact on the Canadian economy, but less than expected. Real growth averaged nearly 3% from 1993 to 2000, but declined in 2001. As of 2003, unemployment was up, with contraction in the manufacturing and natural resource sectors. Canada has successfully avoided economic recession after 2001 and has maintained the best economic growth rates in the G7 group of nations. With its great natural resources, skilled labour force, and modern capital plant, Canada enjoys solid economic prospects.
Two shadows loom, the first being the continuing constitutional impasse between English- and French-speaking areas, which has been raising the possibility of a split in the federation. The ongoing uncertainty creates confusion about who will be responsible for the Canadian debt, what trading relationships will look like, and a host of other issues. However, as fears of separation have waned, the economy has become stronger, notably in Quebec.
Another long-term concern is fears of a flow south to the US of professionals, referred to as the Brain Drain, lured by higher pay, lower taxes, and high-tech opportunities. Simultaneously, a largely under-recognized Brain Gain is occurring, as educated immigrants continue to enter Canada in the late 20th and early 21st centuries  (http://www.statcan.ca/english/indepth/81-003/feature/eqhi2000006003s1a01.htm). As in many western countries, however, the benefits of this phenomenon are limited by problems with acceptance of foreign qualifications; many educated and highly skilled immigrants work in unskilled positions in Canada, because their credentials are not recognized by government, employers, and some professional organizations, such as the Canadian Medical Association, which forces foreign-trained doctors to undertake extensive retraining to practise in Canada.
Main article: Demolinguistics of Canada
The skyline of Montreal, Quebec
Canada's two official languages are English and French. On July 7, 1969, French was made equal to English throughout the Canadian federal government. This started a process that led to Canada redefining itself as a bilingual and multicultural nation at the federal level.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms lays down that:
- French and English are equal to each other as official languages;
- Debate in Parliament may take place in either official language;
- Laws shall be printed in both official languages, with equal authority;
- Anyone may deal with any court established by Parliament, in either official language;
- Everyone has the right to receive services from the federal government in his or her choice of official language;
- Members of a minority language group of one of the official languages IF learned and still understood (i.e. French speakers in a majority English-speaking province, or vice versa) or received primary school education in that language has the right to have their children receive a public education in their language, where numbers warrant.
New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province, a status specifically guaranteed by the Charter of Rights, with its citizens having the same language rights at the provincial level as all citizens of Canada have at the federal level. Most provincial governments, notably Manitoba and Ontario, offer some type of service to their English or French minority populations.
The official language of Quebec is French, as defined by the province's Charter of the French Language which protects the use of French, but also provides certain rights for speakers of English and aboriginal languages. Quebec provides most government services in both French and English.
Halifax, Nova Scotia skyline at night
French is mostly spoken in Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and southern Manitoba. In the 2001 census, 6,864,615 people listed French as a first language, of whom 85% lived in Quebec, and 17,694,835 people listed English as a first language.
Languages other than the official languages are also important in Canada, with 5,470,820 people listing a non-official language as a first language. (The above three statistics include those who listed more than one first language.) Among the most important non-official first language groups are Chinese (853,745 first-language speakers), especially Cantonese (322,315); Italian (469,485); and German (438,080). Any province may have as many official languages as they see fit. Scots Gaelic is still the native tongue of a small number in Nova Scotia, especially in Cape Breton Island.
Speakers of a great many aboriginal languages live in Canada; however, all but a few of the aboriginal languages are in decline. But in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, there are eleven official languages, English and French with special status, then nine native languages: Chipewyan, Cree, Dogrib, Gwich‘in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, and South Slavey. (In Nunavut only English, Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, and French occur to any extent and it is expected that official languages there will soon be legally reduced to those alone.) The only aboriginal languages believed to be fully sustainable at present are the Cree (with 72,885 first-language speakers), Inuktitut (in the NWT and Nunavut; 29,010 speakers), and Ojibwa (together with Cree, Ojibwa will make up 150,000 speakers).
Main article: Demographics of Canada
In the 2001 Canadian National Census, respondents reported their ethnic origins using the following categories  (http://www.canada.com/national/features/census/story.html?id=%7BC78A4458-7085-4FEC-AD57-45F3BA869561%7D):
- Canadian (39.42%)
- English (20.17%)
- French (15.75%)
- Scottish (14.03%)
- Irish (12.90%)
- German (9.25%)
- Italian (4.29%)
- Chinese (3.69%)
- Ukrainian (3.61%)
- First Nations (3.38%)
- Dutch (3.12%)
- Polish (2.76%)
- East Indian (2.41%)
- Black African (2.23%)
- Norwegian (1.23%)
- Portuguese (1.21%)
- Welsh (1.18%)
- Jewish (1.18%)
- Russian (1.14%)
- Filipino (1.11%)
- Métis (1.04%)
- Swedish (0.95%)
- Hungarian (0.90%)
See also: List of Canadians by ethnicity
The total non-white ("visible minority"  (http://www.statcan.ca/english/census2001/dict/pop127.htm)) population is 13% of the Canadian population (http://www12.statcan.ca/english/census01/products/highlight/Ethnicity/Page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo=PR&View=1&Code=0&Table=2&StartRec=1&Sort=2&B1=Distribution) (this does not include First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples).
- Main articles: Culture of Canada, Canadian identity
The city of Calgary, Alberta known as "cowtown" by its local Calgarians.
Like American culture, Canadian culture has been heavily influenced by British culture and traditions as a result of the shared colonial past of the two countries. In addition, Canadian culture has also been influenced by American culture partially because of the close proximity of the two countries and partially because of the migration of people, ideas, capital and politics across the border. Despite these inherited British and American traditions Canadian culture has developed many unique characteristics. In many respects a more robust and distinct Canadian culture has developed in recent years, partially because of the civic nationalism that pervaded Canada in the years leading up to and following the Canadian Centennial in 1967, and also due to a focus on programs to support Canadian culture and the arts by the federal government.
The United States and Canadian governments share a variety of close working partnerships in matters of trade, economics, and legal concerns. Many American movies, authors, TV shows and musicians are equally popular in Canada, and vice-versa. Most cultural products of these types are now increasingly marketed towards a unified "North American" market, and not specifically a Canadian or American one.
As Canada and the United States have grown closer, many Canadians have developed complex feelings and concerns, regarding what makes Canada a "distinct" nation within North America. The large American cultural presence in Canada has prompted some fears of a "cultural takeover," and has initiated the establishment of many laws and government institutions to protect Canadian culture. Much of Canadian culture remains defined in contrast to American culture (See